The Dutch demonstrate yet again
October 1, 2000 12:20 AM   Subscribe

The Dutch demonstrate yet again that they have the most open-minded and progressive culture on the planet. They've also legalized cannibis.
posted by Steven Den Beste (59 comments total)

I love the Dutch (no I wouldn't have a use for these laws, but still). It happens whether it's legal or not, right? Why not let it be legal, safe, and controlled?

I remember hearing a talk show host here in the US talk about one of the most compassionate and forward thinking things I've heard of, and it was done by the Dutch government. Once every few weeks, medical examiners would visit shut-ins and bed ridden individuals, and one day they started taking prostitutes along for the checkup. The purpose was offer sex (fleeting happiness, joy, and to satiate urges) to lonely people that couldn't leave their apartments.

At first it's kind of shocking, right? Using public health funds to pay for sex with people. But if you think about it, there are times when it might be exactly what you want (even though it is purely physical sex). It's pretty much way, way out there in terms of government services I'd expect, but I'm amazed by the Dutch time and time again.
posted by mathowie at 12:40 AM on October 1, 2000

No, they haven't legalised cannabis: it's "decriminalised", which means that police overlook possession for personal use of amounts less than five grams. And strictly license the coffeeshops which sell it.

That's the toleration which marks out the Dutch system: it's something that I have tremendous respect for. It's combined with a compassionate policy towards drug addicts, a tough approach to dealers of hard drugs, and a smart, progressive sex education policy which gives the Netherlands a low rate of STDs and teenage pregnancy.

I love the place. It's so intuitively right about so many aspects of social and cultural policy. Which is possibly why it's regarded as having one of the happiest, most contented populations in the work.
posted by holgate at 1:08 AM on October 1, 2000

they have the most open-minded and progressive culture on the planet.They've also legalized cannibis.
or vice versa...

posted by quonsar at 1:34 AM on October 1, 2000

Careful, holgate, you'll upset some of our coMeFians. They would say that Holland is so intuitively left ... ;-)
posted by dhartung at 1:49 AM on October 1, 2000

Our 'tolerance' is legendary. It's also B.S. We're not tolerant. We 'don't care as long as it doesn't happen in our neighbourhood' or 'as long as we can make a buck'. A long time ago I wrote this about it.

As for the cannabis... I wish they'd ban it. I hate the fukken smell of it everywhere. Do people have to smoke it on the train, in the street, AT WORK!?
posted by prolific at 3:11 AM on October 1, 2000

And all those damn bikes make it dangerous to be a pedestrian in Amsterdam.

Bikes bad. Feet good.

People of the Netherlands, rise up and overthrow the evil tyranny of Bicyclism.

posted by lagado at 5:39 AM on October 1, 2000

Yeay Lagado - my bike(s) have been more times than I care to remember now I walk everywhere, ready to punch any biketheif who yells "Fietsen koopen?". Lets all walk!
posted by dabitch at 6:15 AM on October 1, 2000

It's strange: as I saw this on the 8 o'clock news last night, it didn't seem like such a big deal to me. It still doesn't. It just makes perfect sense. Why not legalise brothels so they're forced to adhere to the same rules as any other industry?

Prostitutes now have two options for working in the industry. They can 1) Be self-employed, renting a room in a brothel for a fee, or 2) Be a regular brothel-employee with fixed pay (instead of the percentage-based pay now), health-care, pregnancy-leave and a right to vacation.

And as for the "as long as we can make a buck" statement made by prolific: brothels now have to pay taxes, so we are making a buck out of it :-).
posted by ar0n at 7:05 AM on October 1, 2000

Why not let it be legal, safe, and controlled?
Well Matt I'd guess because it would be legal-yes, controlled-maybe, safe-not. Sleeping with another human being who has had that much exposure can only lead to a short life.
Our 'tolerance' is legendary. It's also B.S. LMAO caroline, I remember when you first posted that thought. I have an aunt who is the epitome of "I don't care, just get out of my face" so-called dutch tolerance. I lost site of your url awhile ago, I'm glad I found you again.
And as for the "as long as we can make a buck" statement made by prolific: brothels now have to pay taxes, so we are making a buck out of it :-). well arOn I wish it were true. But the sad reality is the dutch are being crushed under an incredibly harsh tax system and the costs of caring for the miscreants created by this 'open minded' society far outweight the taxes they will ever collect.

posted by daddyray at 9:50 AM on October 1, 2000

The world is going to hell in a handbasket. So why not let the government control how fast?
posted by Brilliantcrank at 10:05 AM on October 1, 2000

Being of Frisian ancestry (about four generations back) and wondering a bit about the Netherlands, and because the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in The Hague anyway, my then-girlfriend and I spent 3 weeks in various parts of the Netherlands, including three days in Amsterdam.

One night we found a notice of an organ recital which was going to be held in the "Oude Kerk" (whose spelling I've probably butchered) and we walked to it. It was marvelous, listening to that magnificent old organ and the performer was outstanding. But the route we took included walking along the edge of the church along a fairly narrow walkway, and right along the other side were houses, and in a lot of those houses were prostitutes. They have floor-to-ceiling windows and they wear lingerie and sit on stools right there and they were literally within arm's reach (except for intervening glass) and I guess the idea in that particular area is that you literally window shop. But what bothered me was that all the women were clearly immigrants or descended from; I would guess they were Indonesian. None of the ones I saw on that very strange walking trip were European. It was really rather eerie. (All the more so since it was literally right next to a major church. These women were sitting no more than 3 meters from the church wall.)

We never went to the formal red-light district; so I don't know. This was my only encounter with prostitution while I was there. Was that typical? Is it the case that most if not all of the prostitutes are from minority groups? Do any native Dutch women do it?

These days it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there were quite a lot of native Europeans who work as prostitutes, except that I would suspect they're from what used to be the Warsaw pact.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:07 AM on October 1, 2000

Prolific, before you say that your tolerance is horseshit, try going to live in beautiful Alabama for a few weeks. "We don't know what we got 'til it's gone."

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:08 AM on October 1, 2000

Steven - I used to live on that street you describe. (not in a red window mind you.) Basically - the red light district goes by "flavours" , a few streets further down you'd get the blond starlets, and another street down has the large black ladies and so on. The Oude Kerk is in the middle of the Red Light district.
posted by dabitch at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2000

Daddyray brings up a good point - in this day and age multiple sexpartners is not safe (has it ever been?) when unprotected - and most of these girls are.

I don't know if I like the whole idea of being able to "sell a woman" as if we are products. I wonder how this affects the general community. I had to move from the Red Light district when I no longer could handle - or stand - all the men who dragged out wads of money to flag me down with as I was out buying groceries. They seem to misunderstand - those who are selling their services are in red windows, but to these men anything in a skirt can be bought.
posted by dabitch at 10:34 AM on October 1, 2000

Indonesian? Highly unlikely. Probably Thai. There was a time when they were all South American. I don't know what the current flavour is. They're not really 'minorities' in that they aren't from the communities that are considered 'minorities' in this country (Surinamese, Dutch Antilles, Turkish, Morrocan). I think they're sort of slave traded, flown in from Asia / South America, and yes, probably Russia and Poland.
posted by prolific at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2000

I've always argued that were we to legalize prostitution in America, we'd believe to reduce the amount of underaged girls/boys in it and also allow the government to make some money off of it in taxes.
posted by owillis at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2000

There are legal brothels in the US.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:58 AM on October 1, 2000

Excellent point, Steven.

But in general, it's been proven time and again that the absolute *best* way to make something a profit vehicle for criminals, organized and otherwise, is to make it illegal.

Did we not learn even *one little thing* from Prohibition?

I guess not.
posted by baylink at 11:32 AM on October 1, 2000

Well Matt I'd guess because it would be legal-yes, controlled-maybe, safe-not. Sleeping with another human being who has had that much exposure can only lead to
a short life.

daddyray, the solution is fairly simple: mandatory condom use and regular health checkups. Works in Nevada... I see no reason why it wouldn't work in the Netherlands.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:31 PM on October 1, 2000

Condoms don't stop everthing Mars. other thing...they break. Heh.
While I believe that legal prostitution is not the total answer, I doubt there is a total answer. It's the oldest profession and the oldest past-time. At a minimum, legal prostitution would allow us to kid ourselves into thinking there are no risks...'after all it's legal, isn't it?'...will be another in a long line of famous last words.
posted by daddyray at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2000

daddyray, I think everyone that pays to have sex with a stranger, legal or not, knows there are risks involved. No one's saying it's gonna be 100% safe it were legal. It is the oldest profession, so it's never going away. We can continue to ignore it and act like it doesn't exist, but it's never going to stop happening.
posted by mathowie at 2:16 PM on October 1, 2000

I'm imagining our world in the near future.
Imagine the conversations at your local high school guidance councellor's office. "You'll need a minimum one year post secondary for a career as a prostitute Mary. The curriculum is varied and there is a required two months 'hands on experience' followed by a written and oral exam, *ahem*"
Or how 'bout at the union stewards office where a prostitute has filed a grievance after being shelved following a recent 'routine' medical. Union Steward "Trixie listen, you were clean on the last medical, but clearly the company has a point here. You've got AIDS. We can't have you killing our clientelle, it's bad for business."
Legalized prostitution? Right. In the current system, sleeping with a hooker is both illegal and deadly. It's entirely your personal responsibility if you contract a disease or get your name publicised in the local paper as an offender. When we make it legal, society abdicates it's personal responsibility and the lawyers get involoved. You sleep with a hooker and contract a deadly disease and the law suits abound.
Personal injury lawyers make enough money as it is. Stop the insanity.
posted by daddyray at 2:20 PM on October 1, 2000

dabitch has a point. They seem to misunderstand - those who are selling their services are in red windows, but to these men anything in a skirt can be bought.
Open up that can of worms and our current troubles between men and women either stay the same or get worse.

posted by daddyray at 2:23 PM on October 1, 2000

Um, daddyray?

Did you miss the links up above, pointing to the webpages of the Nevada brothels where prostitution has been legal for the better part of the last 30 years? The evils you enumerate seem not to have come to pass.


And the first person who says the words "silly bitch" on this thread gets his. :-)
posted by baylink at 3:06 PM on October 1, 2000

At a minimum, legal prostitution would allow us to kid ourselves into thinking there are no risks...'after all it's legal, isn't it?'...will be another in a long line of famous last words.

Daddyray, you can't possibly believe your own point here: it is legal to drink a bottle of industrial solvent and I've never thought "Right, well, there can't be anything wrong with it since there is no law specificly prohibiting it."

Further, you say "In the current system, sleeping with a hooker is both illegal and deadly." — deadly for the prostitutes, but not for the clients. Vancouver has an HIV infection rate among prostitutes that is more than 10 times higher than Amsterdam and there have been more than 30 murders of prostitutes in the last 10 years. (That might not sound like much to Americans, but it is about 8% of all murders in that time period — a lot for a city where guns aren't all over the palce.) Because prostitutes are forced to empty industrial areas late at night, they are also subject to rape, robbings, beatings, and lots of other horrible things.

Finally, laws have little to do with human behaviour in these contexts: is the law against it all that prevents you from visiting a prostitute? (or from doing herion for that matter?) I'd hazard that if you subtract all the tourists who travel to Amsterdam specificly for the prostitution, the Amsterdamers aren't visiting prostitutes any more than people in Buenos Aires, Glasgow or Dehli.

Criminilizing prostitution has pretty much one effect: opening up prostitutes to a world of danger. That's about it.
posted by sylloge at 3:11 PM on October 1, 2000

The Dutch flirting with the baser ends of society had it’s absurd climax with the Heroin Park incident. Legalizing formerly criminal activities gives the Government access to tax dollars, but they lose it to support services. Which is why Heroin Park was bulldozed -- the money into the government didn’t cover the money out. I wonder how long before legal prostitution is similarly bulldozed.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:08 PM on October 1, 2000

From what I've read, in the Nevada brothels, not only is condom use mandatory (even for fellatio, which strikes me as rather odd; rubber tastes terrible), but at least two other things take place.

First, the prostitute carefully cleans the man's crotch with soap and water. Second, she carefully examines it for signs of things like chancra or herpes or warts, and if she finds anything irregular that client won't be served.

I believe that there are no known cases of transmission of VD via one of the Nevada brothels. The women working there are very careful.

(No, I have no personal experience with this.)

posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:33 PM on October 1, 2000

Steven, I would imagine condems are necessary for fellatio because there are diseases that can live through the digestive process.

And having had no first experience with what a flavoured condom tastes like, perhaps the rubber taste's been masked suitable. :-)
posted by cCranium at 4:43 PM on October 1, 2000

Oh dear God, that was quite probably the poorest sentance I've ever written.

And having had no experience with what a flavoured condom tastes like I can't really say, but perhaps the rubber taste is suitably masked, making it less unpleasant.

Where's the pile of sand when I need it...
posted by cCranium at 4:46 PM on October 1, 2000

Um Baylink? Yes I did. I even read the part about 100% condom usage and zero% breakage.
I am not inclined to believe everything I read. Marketing hype does not make brothel diving safe.
Sorry. Silly Bitch ;-)
And the Captain makes a good point. One I had alluded to earlier. Legalizing prostitution may make prostitutes safer, of that much I am certain. However, on the arguement that tax money can be raised, I agree with the Captain. The cost of this 'social program' is never going to be offset by taxes gained. It's gonna be just another socialist cause that inflates an already staggering tax rate.
Syllog I stand by my assertions. Especially regarding sleeping with a prostitute to be deadly for the client. You seem to disagree. Well russian roulette isn't deadly for the player either. Unless of course the player takes a bullet.
posted by daddyray at 5:16 PM on October 1, 2000

And then I go and spell Sylloge incorrectly. Room in that pile of sand cCranium? sheesh.
posted by daddyray at 5:18 PM on October 1, 2000

"Legalizing formerly criminal activities gives the Government access to tax dollars, but they lose it to support services. Which is why Heroin Park was bulldozed -- the money into the government didn’t cover the money out."

The last time I heard a figure for the US's cost for the war on drugs (budget of the DEA & the portion of other enforcement agencies' budgets which went towards anti-drug activities, extra prison capacity, foreign aid for the purpose of anti-drug activities, etc.) it was just over $60 Billion (that was in 1991) and it sounded like quite an underestimate.

As things stand now, the goverment levies a tax on drug users, but all the proceeds go to (criminals in the US and abroad). No part of the US governement (except perhaps the CIA) sees any of that revenue.

So, that looks like at least a $60 billion plus loss on the current policy. I can't imagine that direct taxation where the proceeds when to the treasury's general revenue pool could possibly work out worse.

Daddyray, what percentage of your neighbors do you suppose visit prostitutes regularly? Not that many right? But there are still customers. So, if it was as deadly as you think, how do you suppose the population of prostitution customers sustains itself? Are they recruiting somwhere? Where are all the widows of prostitution? How come we never hear about this horrendous slaughter?
posted by sylloge at 6:17 PM on October 1, 2000

Aaaah. Now I understand. Something I had read said that prostitution was already legal, which confused hell out of me.

Prostitution was already legal long since. What they just legalized was brothels. (I guess before that, prostitutes had to free-lance to be legal.)

posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:25 PM on October 1, 2000

Platzspitz, or Heroin Park, was in Switzerland. Sorry about that.

If drugs were de-criminalized the payout would be equal or higher to whatever the War on Drugs costs ($60 billion, huh? Where’d that come from?). I seriously doubt de-criminalization or legalization would improve anybody’s life.

The US levies a tax on drug users?

Characterizing the support of prostitution as open-minded is interesting. Wouldn’t it be more progressive to ease their access to livelihoods where their minds and bodies weren’t under such duress?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:57 PM on October 1, 2000

You may be surprised to learn that a lot of prostitutes actually like it. Why should they be prevented from having the career they want?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:56 AM on October 2, 2000

Alcohol is legal yet i choose not to drink purely because i don't like it's taste and how it affects me. Legalising prostitution or drugs will ONLY make it SAFER for those who CHOOSE to participate in these activities.
posted by Zool at 1:01 AM on October 2, 2000

Plan Columbia will cost over a billion alone and Columbia is only one country that the US "aids" in that special way that only the American government can aid.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics Prison Statistics site will let in on lots of interesting things. Here are two of those things: 22% of inmates in state and federal prisons are incarcerated for drug crimes. The combined budget for state and federal prisons is $24.5 billion. That makes $5.4 to house the prisoners in the war on drugs (not including those in county or municipal prisons).

At the ONDCP's FY 1999 Budget Highlights Federal Drug Control Programs site you'll note that the 1999 budget for federal drug control programs was $17 billion. (Of which about $5 billion was spent on education and other "demand reduction" programs which may or may not have been well spent.)

The corresponding number for state and local spending is harder to find, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics Expenditure and Employment Statistics reports that
In fiscal 1996 Federal, State, and local governments spent more than $120 billion for civil and criminal justice, a 73% increase over 1995. For every resident, the three levels of government together spent $454. In fiscal 1996 State and local governments combined spent 85% of all justice dollars; the Federal Government spent the rest.
So the states/local governments are far outspending the feds on justice — but I can't find a breakdown. Even without the total for state and local governments we have already found $23 billion. Adding the figures for non-federal expenditures (as well as all those things that I haven't even mentioned, like welfare and medical costs for the war's victims, cost of drug-related crimes, plus any number of things that I never thought of) we can easily sail past the $60 billion mark.

Imagining how society would deal with drug use if we spent more than $60 billion on treatment, education, and rehabilitation is left as an exercise for the reader.

- - -

I seriously doubt de-criminalization or legalization would improve anybody’s life.

Again, it is hard for me to fathom that someone could actually believe that, so it is hard to dispute. All of our lives would be improved by reclaiming the civil liberties which fell to prohibition efforts over the last century. The people in prison, the people shot dead by the DEA, the heroin addicts killed by purity shifts, anyone who lives in neighborhoods where the battles in the war were fought — all of them would have (or would have had) material improvements in their lives.

And all of this is almost beside the point. Making it a criminal activity to take drugs is unjust.

I am not a criminal, nor are the programmers, designers, architects, lawyers, writers, accountants, doctors, professors, judges, musicians, clerks or baristas, etc. that I know who choose to use drugs recreationally. I mean, fuck you (not you personally — this is merely a rhetorical device) if you think that I should be a criminal for choosing to smoke pot in the evenings or do mushrooms on a camping trip. Fuck you if you think I should do jail time when I pay my taxes, mentor people coming into my profession, gave 10% of my windfall to charity, produce interesting research, and am generally a nice and loving guy who's never been violent in his life and hasn't broken any (other) laws since shoplifting as a child. I don't say that very often, but, fuck you.

And what might be even harder for you to swallow: the hardcore addicts who die in our streets aren't (necessarily) criminals either. They are sick. Some of them are also criminals, in addition to being addicts, but their crimes aren't their addictions.

- - -

The US doesn't literally levy a tax on illegal drugs, but in effect it does the same: supply reduction efforts make drugs more expensive (an avowed goal of many programs) ѿ the difference in the price of drugs on a "free" market and the current constrained market is the tax. The beneficiaries of the tax are drug dealers, wholesalers and suppliers. (And just think of the things they buy with that money — it's not all jewelry and mansions.)

Whether you think of it as a "tax" or not (that is just a metaphor after all), note that the distribution of drugs is massively incentivized by prohibition. A product that costs $50,000 per kilogram with 98% gross margins and which is widely saught but unavailable through any legimate commercial means is going to find sellers. And unlike hypothetical regulatory/distribution authorities, those sellers have a huge interest in seeing the trade not only perpetuated but expanded.

- - -

In conclusion, I wish you would actually think about this. This issue should be a priority for Americans since the rest of the world can only proceed in a more rational direction on pain of economic sanctions (or worse) from your government. The war on drugs has failed as spectacularly as any other organized human activity I can think of and it is time to put away the guns and stop.
posted by sylloge at 1:36 AM on October 2, 2000

Being born in the states and raised in Amsterdam, I was amazed while living in the states (1987-1999) when Mayor Gulliani banned sex video stores and strip bars from (most) of New York City.

The main purpose of prostitution is to "relieve" a primary function, firmly embedded in our DNA; to replicate. Lack of this relief has been proven to be responsible for many criminal and inhumane acts. The Dutch view it in exactly this manner, and just like drugs and alcohol it is "no big deal" and therefore exactly that, no big deal, whether you participate or not.

Then again, there are very strict firearms and vehicle operator regulations. I believe that statistically it's more dangerous to have guns in the house and teenage drivers on the public roads than sanctioned, clean brothels.

We may be a bunch of dope smoking hooker lovin' folks here, but we don't have kids shooting each other at school, high ranking officials boffing interns (which must've been outta nessecity!) nor do we have anywhere nearly enough material to create TV shows like: COPS, Americas' dummest criminals, 911, real stories of the Highway Patrol, Live Hi-Speed chases and Jerry Springer.

Face it Americans, you are being suppressed by the "Moral Majority" who apparently just can't face the actual size of their penises.

Get Over It, Get Laid, Live Happy.

AC (US Citizen living in Amsterdam)
posted by adamc1999 at 4:18 AM on October 2, 2000

RE: "Safe, legal and controlled"...kinda like Big Tobacco, eh?

Or maybe more like American Beer Companies?

(OK, admittedly a cheap shot...I couldn't resist...seeking therapy...)
posted by ethmar at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2000

Like Big Tobacco, 'cept without the "Marijuana smoking is completely harmless. Hell, it's good for you!" claims.

Nobody thinks that smoking is going to make you healthy, nobody thinks that drinking is going to help you think straight, and nobody thinks that sparkin' a joint, or dropping some acid, or shooting some heroin is going to improve your life.

Most people are in it for the buzz, plain and simple.

And yes, that goes for smokers and drinkers right now, too. I still enjoy 80% of the cigarettes I smoke, because they alter my body chemistry, and it's a buzz I enjoy. Is that a good reason to smoke? Hell no, there's no such thing as a good reason to smoke.

I still enjoy every beer I drink, though I'm admittedly less dependant on alchohol than I am on cigarettes, and that's as good a reason to drink as I can think of.

I also enjoy every joint I smoke.

Heh. I'm just waiting for the joint commercials with all the pretty girls in bikinis just hanging out on the couch playing Nintendo. :-)
posted by cCranium at 9:19 AM on October 2, 2000

First, the prostitute carefully cleans the man's crotch with soap and water. Second, she carefully examines it for signs of things like chancra or herpes or warts, and if she finds anything irregular that client won't be served.

Boy, now doesn't *that* sound like an experience worth paying for.
posted by rcade at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2000

Actually, if done properly, it would be. It could very well be a highly erotic process.

(assuming, of course, that you're of the mind to visit a prostitute anyway)
posted by cCranium at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2000

No, we can’t easliy sail past $60b. Anti-drug propoganda rarely states over $40b has been spent on fighting drugs (yes, that’s the whole Drug War, prisons and all they’re citing), while anti-drug propoganda keeps it around $20b. It's good thing we don't need to spend $60b on drug treatment. They're aren't that many addicts in this country.

Hey man, of course I didn’t want this to get to personal. I’m sure you’re a great guy. But, you know, marijuana is illegal so if you smoke it you’re breaking the law. But hey! Whatever. You’re the type of casual user, with your myriad of professional friends, that’ll never get caught and never be fined for it. It’s quiet and has no marked effect on the community. Just be prepared to pay the fine, as I was.

Addicts are sick, but they’re also really difficult to help. They know they have problems, but they simply can’t help themselves. Marijuana is addicitive, I don’t care what anyone’s opinions on this is, because I’ve put two friends into rehab for marijuana addiction.

Let me break it down for you, why I don’t support drug legalization. See, you, most of my friends and I, frankly, can handle drugs. We don’t have addiction in our genetics, most of us are in our twenties or older (if you use any drug from tobacco to heroin while your brain is growing the potential for damage is exceedingly high) and we’ve got lives we want to lead.

I believe, though, a society on a whole cannot support wholesale drug-legalization. America has the power to help stave off drug-use. If we can do it, I think we should. Granted we do it poorly on occasion, but I prefer it to giving up.

In my conclusion: HOW DARE YOU SAY I’M NOT THINKING ABOUT THIS. Because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I’m wrong, man! Don’t be so fucking smug!
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2000

capt.crackpipe. Are you saying that because there are people out there that can't handle casual drug use, nobody should be able to use drugs? Is that your argument? I'm being completely serious here. I want some clarification before I respond to that, because I don't want to misunderstand you.

Thanks in advance for clarification.
posted by cCranium at 2:46 PM on October 2, 2000

Captain, I'd never say you were wrong because you disagreed with me. You are wrong irrespective of what I believe.

> anti-drug propoganda keeps it around $20b
This doesn't really bear discussing since I already pointed you to all the (.gov) sites which have the numbers for you to play with, but I guess I need to repeat that the first three things that I thought of off the top of my head cost $23 billion and I listed many more (I'd reckon it at anywhere from $40-100 billion, depending how far you extend the "knock-on trail"). But the actual number is pretty much irrelevant since all we were talking about is whether the government coffers would be better off following the legalization of drugs. (I'll take that point as conceeded.)

To close this topic, let me quote Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate in Economics (and card-carrying Republican, btw), here just touching on the economic effects of the war on drugs:
Who would believe that a democratic government would pursue for eight decades a failed policy that produced tens of millions of victims and trillions of dollars of illicit profits for drug dealers; cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars; increased crime and destroyed inner cities; fostered widespread corruption and violations of human rights and all with no success in achieving the stated and unattainable objective of a drug-free America?(source; see also his classic 1972 Newsweek essay and his 1989 Open Letter to Bill Bennett in the Wall Street Journal.)
Now, you "break it down" for me by explaining that you "don't support drug legalization" because you "believe ... a society on a whole cannot support wholesale drug-legalization". If that indicates the depth of thought you have been able to give this matter, I urge you to keep trying.

Interestingly, I more or less agree with your next three sentences. Where we differ is the matter of what policies would most reduce the harm that drugs cause. You think our current policies (while flawed) are correct; I contend that they have failed miserably and are about the worst we could possibly do.

I'm not being smug; I am being a prick. But I have to here — this is important. Along those lines, here are four specific points for you to think about:
  • By incentivizing the distribution and sale of drugs, prohibition has seen an increase of over 500% in the (cocaine and opiate) addict population between 1905 and 1998. (source)Even though at the turn of the certury cocaine, opium, heroin, and other optiates were widely available for sale over the counter, were added to a wide variety of consumer products and were even advertised (with "outlandish claims of health benefits"), it wasn't until prohibition began that usage rates took off — and subsequent tightening of drug laws have tended to make matters worse: in 1968 Nixon proclaimed the war on drugs, in 1973 the DEA was created and between 1974 and 1982 cocaine use quadrupled. (ibid)(Of course, this doesn't just apply to cocaine and heroin, but since those are usually considered the most insidious drugs, they make the most vivid examples.)
  • The incursions and infringements against, the creation of exceptions to, and wholesale disposal of civil liberties for the sake of catching "criminals" in cases where there is no victim to report the crime have had the cumulative effect of gutting the laws which protect many of our most fundamental rights. And as Chief Justice Kogan of Florida's Supreme Court wrote:
    If the zeal to eliminate drugs leads this state and nation to forsake its ancient heritage of constitutional liberty, then we will have suffered a far greater injury than drugs ever inflict upon us. Drugs injure some of us. The loss of liberty injures us all.(Cresswell v. Florida, 1990: source)
    (That source link is also an excellent article on the subject.)
  • America's war on drugs has had disastrous effects on innocent bystanders both domestically and abroad. These effects are too numerous to enumerate in this post, but here are representative articles on Columbia and Mexico, a press briefing on money laundering (laundering the trillions in drug profits over the last decades has had destabilizing effects on the currency markets, monetary policies and banking systems of both emerging and "developed" economies), and a collection of articles about race, ethicty and drugs.
  • The perpetuation of unjust laws (such as the one which makes a criminal out of me or the junkies on Main street) erode public respect for the system of laws that most democracies have made their ultimate ruler. If you believe in the rule of law, it is incumbent upon you to prevent the creation and perpetual of unjust laws, regardless of what you speculate might result from those laws. While it is preferable for people to pragmatic (consquentialist), laws must be just.
Now that about it. I'm not going to keep going on this thread unless you can come up with some specific arguments or questions — I don't have the time. But let me say, HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME DO YOUR RESEARCH FOR YOU? Like I akready mentioned, I urge you (and by "you" I mean everyone, not just the Captain) to actually take some time to think about this.
posted by sylloge at 10:06 PM on October 2, 2000

(Yeah, I know: "enough akready".)
posted by sylloge at 10:07 PM on October 2, 2000

wow. ok.
i guess i've been 'told'.
sheesh, sylloge, go have a toke, relax...

posted by daddyray at 10:31 PM on October 2, 2000

"all i need are some tasty waves and a cool buzz and i'm fine" - Jeff Spicolli - Fast Times
posted by daddyray at 10:33 PM on October 2, 2000

Oh. Heh. A correction: Pro-drug propoganda states ~$40b, while anti-drug states ~$20b.

Please, Sylloge, don't do research for me.

No wonder you’re such a polemic here, your paper has a “War on Drugs” section and a columnist — not a reporter — writes the articles. Tsk tsk.

1. How can one even begin to estimate the addict population in 1905? What are the different medical procedures used to diagnose addicts at the turn of the century, when, as a point of reference, therapy barely existed and penicillin hadn’t been discovered? Not to mention the population has increased, so of course the addict population would, too.

2. Yes, totally. Drug laws, specifically penalties, are too stringent.

3. Need I note the scourge that illicit drugs can have on neighborhoods, communities and people?

That last one is, hmm, neat. It looked like a fun rhetorical excercise! Laws must be just. Just what?

Yea, fair, and the idea behind the current ones are to keep my community safe from harmful substances at the cost of users and dealers. Seems to work in my neighborhood.

Drug policy is bad, but I see the alternative is worse. Every country that’s dealt with legalization reverted in the end or had to beef up their police forces. Amsterdam has a police force twice or three times the size of a city its size in America.

Crainum, the above answers your question. Countries dabbling in legalization — Spain: heroin and coke, Great Britian: heroin, Switzerland: created a user’s haven, China: opium — all backpeddled because the social costs were too high. If you don’t learn the past...

And don’t bring up Prohibition. It failed because Americans wanted booze while the government wanted rightousness. That doesn’t characterize the current political climate. Granted, it’s seems to be changing, but not yet.

Here’s the thing. We agree pretty much on everything right up to legality. So, we’re done here.

In the end, Sylloge, you can be real pretentious (allow me to quote award-winning blahblah), I can be incredibly hard-headed (award-winner you’re quoting is not me) and we’re both being really boring (ibid).

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Incidentaly, a “parlour” in the UK.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:10 AM on October 3, 2000

Here’s the thing. We agree pretty much on everything right up to legality. So, we’re done here.

That's a good point. I'm certainly willing to agree to disagree in regards to legalization.

Except, there's one thing we don't agree on:


Why has my alias suddenly become so hard to type? :-)
posted by cCranium at 8:44 AM on October 3, 2000

nobody thinks that sparkin' a joint, or dropping some acid, ... is going to improve your life.

now that's just not true.
posted by sudama at 10:15 AM on October 3, 2000

Okay, I suppose, but by improve I meant get your farther in work, make you more money, get you a significant other, all those stereotypical "goals in life" that are important to many.

Admittedly, "improve" can mean better things, and if you're enjoying your life more, or getting more entertainment out of your life (two common arguments), I'm not going to say it isn't improved.

Umm... how 'bout nobody thinks that sparkin' a joint, or dropping some acid, ... is going to improve your health.

'zat acceptable? :-)
posted by cCranium at 11:07 AM on October 3, 2000

Umm... how 'bout nobody thinks that sparkin' a joint ... is going to improve your health.

Voters in a number of states disagree with that, too.
posted by norm at 11:50 AM on October 3, 2000


I don't think that's true. I think Marijuana is quite probably carcinogenic (but then, so's the freakin' Sun, so what're you gonna do? :-), and really does some damage to your lungs - if smoked, that is.

What it does do is abates nausea, and generally relaxes a person, thereby allowing them to live life comfortably, letting them eat, etc.

*sigh again* Alright, well, fine then. Marijuana both improves your life and your health. *shrug* where's my pipe?
posted by cCranium at 2:34 PM on October 3, 2000

Scientific tests have been done, and the smoke from Marijuana is not carcinogenic. It was the same tests which were done on tobacco, and Marijuana failed them.

However, extensive smoking of Marijuana can cause emphysema, which is a really horrible condition.

Actually, regarding tobacco for the moment, people tend to concentrate on its potential for causing lung cancer, but in fact only a minority of smokers get lung cancer. (Too many, but still a minority.) Ten times as many, the majority of heavy smokers, end up with varying degrees of emphysema, however. And the lung damage in question is permanent.

In certain people (including me) Marijuana can also aggravate depression, which is why I stopped using it fifteen years ago. (So can alcohol, which is why I stopped drinking 5.5 years ago. I am living a preposterously clean and virtuous life. I need to cultivate some new sins.)

posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:47 PM on October 3, 2000

cCranium: you missed the point - the question was not "is marijuana good for you," it was "is there anyone who thinks marijuana is good for you." The former question is under debate, the latter can be empirically demonstrated to be true (as norm has done). Well, that, or I missed the point... feel free to tell me which ;-)

Steven: don't worry, there are plenty of ways to stay off the straight and narrow that have nothing to do with unhealthy chemicals. Not only do screwing and swearing work as well as ever, but the booming economy has brought formerly big-league sins like terrorism, piracy, and murder down to the average person's range.

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:11 PM on October 3, 2000

Oi vey, my crainum. Sorry.

Maybe crainum means long metafilter threads that have swung way off topic by people steadfastly holding on to their varied beliefs. Like, “Oh man, that post about the girl and her keychain is gonna turn into one hell of a crainum!”

posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:24 PM on October 3, 2000

Mars, recently I've been trying to specialize in lust. Not only is it legal and pleasurable, but unlike the other vices it isn't harmful. (Indeed, it can enhance your health.)

The only problem with it for a single man with no girlfriend is that it can be rather expensive if one does not exercise restraint.

But I draw the line at prostitutes and brothels, even if they're legal. I will not be visiting "The Chicken Ranch" next time I visit Vegas; and would not patronize the now-legal Red Light district in Amsterdam, which is where this thread began.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:32 PM on October 3, 2000

crackpipe: HA! A good chuckle to start the morning, thank you. Though I'm not sure I actually want my nick - however tenuously - to be associated with driving MeFi off-topic. :-)
posted by cCranium at 4:41 AM on October 4, 2000

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